Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Last Prayer

In previous posts, I've talked about my gradual change to atheism. The change didn't happen in a rush of realization like the loss of my testimony did. But if I had to identify a point in time when I realized that I was a complete atheist, it would be one night during the summer of 2010. That night was like many nights in that I was feeling very lonely and I had no idea what to do with myself. I went to the temple and sat on the grounds as the sun set and just thought. I thought about how much had changed since the last time I'd been inside a temple--it had been over a year. I looked up at the stars and wondered if there was anyone up there who cared about me at all. I had stopped praying a few months previously, because my desperate prayers just weren't being answered. But I decided to give it one last shot. If I was ever going to regain a belief in God, this was his chance.

I said everything that I had to say to God. I told him about how frustrated and lonely and confused I was. I told him how much I wanted to believe that he was real, but that I really didn't think it was fair of him to expect me to believe in him when all appearances indicated that he didn't exist. I asked him to help me know if he was real. I don't know what I expected. I didn't expect any kind of miraculous vision. I didn't expect a warm fuzzy feeling like the one I had been told to expect when reading the Book of Mormon. Even if I had felt something like that, I wouldn't have trusted it. I think that I was really expecting everything to suddenly make sense, that all my doubts and the apparent problems with a belief in God would vanish in a brilliant flash of logic. Whatever I was expecting, nothing happened. Nothing. In a way I wasn't really surprised by the nothingness, because that was all I had been getting for months, even before I lost my testimony of Mormonism. But this time was different, because I accepted it. No divine answer was forthcoming. I had done my level best to believe in God, and God had failed the test.

As I walked back from the temple to my apartment, I didn't really think much about what had happened. It was almost as if nothing had happened, because nothing had really changed. But I was finally at peace with God--that is, with his lack of existence. Since losing my testimony I had always wondered in the back of my mind if there really was a God, and if he really cared. I had now accepted that I was on my own and that there wasn't any supernatural force to guide me or comfort me, or even to lend me a listening ear. I had talked to God, and no one had heard me. I wouldn't even realize the significance of that night until later. Even though the experience itself was emotionally difficult, my reaction immediately afterwards was really just a shrug of my shoulders. So there was probably no God. That came as anything but a surprise. That night I let go of my angst over the God issue and got on with my life. I haven't worried since.

2 comments:

  1. This resonates so strongly with me. The lack of answers - the prayers - the emptiness. I, too, have made peace with the concept of God's non-existence and am very comfortable with my atheism.

    At the same time, though, I still find myself feeling a lot of anger at the God I used to believe in - the one who never existed - the one who, even my believing wife agrees, is more a construct of my imagination than real.

    When I'm discussing philosophy, religion, or some tragedy or another - even some of the more distasteful stories out of the Bible, it's very easy to slip back into my "believer" mindset and think about what those issues say about the God I used to believe in. And it invariably gets me upset.

    Sometimes I feel just like the TBMs who ask, "why can't you just leave it alone?" I wish I could. I wish I was so healed.

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  2. This is an absolutely lovely post. It perfectly conveys how I, too, just picked myself up by my own boot straps, accepted a Godless existence, and went on with my life. And I'm so much happier for it! After many, many years of conflicting feelings, it was just that easy.

    Leaving the Mormon church is SUCH an ordeal, especially if you were raised in it. However, after all is said and done (your family knows, your friends know, and you no longer feel so guilty) it is truly the most FREEING experience.

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